Ramos-Lara, N., and J. L. Koprowski. 2015. Spacing behavior of a non-larder-hoarding Tamiasciurus: a study of Mearns's squirrels in xeric coniferous forests. Ethology 121: 196-205.


Nicolás Ramos-Lara
John L. Koprowski

In ecosystems with seasonal fluctuations in food supply many species use two strategies to store food: larder hoarding and scatter hoarding. However, because species at different geographic locations may experience distinct environmental conditions, differences in hoarding behavior may occur. Tree squirrels in the genus Tamiasciurus display variation in hoarding behavior. Whereas red (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) and Douglas’s (Tamiasciurus douglasii) squirrels in mesic coniferous forests defend territories centered around larder hoards maintaining non-overlapping home ranges, red squirrels in deciduous forests defend small scatter-hoarded caches of cones maintaining overlapping home ranges. As in other rodent species, variation in hoarding behavior appears to influence the spacing behavior of red and Douglas’s squirrels. In contrast, Mearns’s squirrels (Tamiasciurus mearnsi) in xeric coniferous forests neither rely on larder hoards nor appear to display territorial behavior. Unfortunately, little is known about the ecology of this southernmost Tamiasciurus. Using radiotelemetry, we estimated home-range size, overlap, and maximum distance traveled from nest to examine the spacing behavior of Mearns’s squirrels. Similar to scatter-hoarding rodents, maximum distance traveled from nest was greater for males during mating season, whereas those of females were similar year round. Although no seasonal differences were detected, male home ranges were three times larger during mating season, whereas those of females were smaller and displayed a minor variation between seasons. Home ranges were overlapped year round but contrary to our expectations, overlap was greater during mating season for both sexes, with no detectable relationship between male home-range size and the number of females overlapped during mating season. Overall, the results appear to support our hypothesis that in the absence of larder hoards, the spacing behavior of Mearns’s squirrels should be different from larder- hoarding congeners and more similar to scatter-hoarding rodents.

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